Shae Komant

Introduce yourself...

I am completing the second year of my Master's program in Medical Microbiology and Immunology. I am studying the ability to create a virus that cannot only target cancer cells for destruction but can also reveal their presence to the immune system. When I am not working with viruses in the lab, you can find me playing baseball, hitting the slopes, or taking care of my peacocks in my acreage. I am extremely excited to share my research with this year's 3MT competition!

What are you researching and what do you hope comes out of your research?

Currently, I am creating and testing different Vaccinia viruses as vessels to both infect and kill cancer cells, while also alerting the immune system to the presence of the cancer cells. My hope for this research is to create novel, safe, and effective cancer therapies that can benefit numerous people battling cancer. This therapeutic virus could also prove to be an important tool for creating vessels to combat other diseases or the potential to create effective vaccines.

How did presenting a Three Minute Thesis (3MT) help explain your research to the public?

Through the 3MT, I was able to take a step back from my research and think about its greater impact on cancer therapeutics and why it is an important topic to be studying. This allowed me to think about how I can relay this importance to the public and create excitement for novel therapies using strategies that may not be as well known in the mainstream as well. I hope my 3MT will bring some interest and enthusiasm to science, and how we can find new ways of tackling some of our most serious diseases.

What inspires you to do research?

My passion for science and for learning have fueled my research. I have always wanted to understand the why and how of our bodies. What keeps us safe from all the potential diseases we could encounter? And what causes the breakdowns which allow for the disease to occur? Additionally, our ability to combat these threats we face is also a large inspiration for me and understanding how others have developed life-saving treatments, and what we will discover next keeps me enthusiastic about my project. In the future, I hope to be able to use the treatments that are being discovered today to help others in their fights against disease and their redemption of health. Research today is healthcare tomorrow.

What are three keywords important to your 3MT?

viral therapeutics, immune recognition, cancer treatment

How has your research changed during COVID-19?

COVID-19 has altered the ways in which we have had to carry out our daily lives and research has not been an exception. For a few months, I was unable to conduct bench work, so instead, I had to focus my efforts on building upon my background knowledge and planning my next steps in the project for when I was able to resume my work. COVID-19 has also changed the ways in which I have been able to present my work to my colleagues and the community. We have all had to make adjustments to our work environment, figuring out how we can continue to work together and communicate in this new virtual environment. While there have been some challenges trying to complete my thesis with our current situation, it has also pushed me to become more creative in the ways that I can complete my work and communicate what I have accomplished with others.

If you had to dedicate your research to anyone from the past, present, or future, who would it be and why?

I would dedicate my work to everyone who has supported me thus far in my research career, especially my parents who have had to listen to countless presentations and have always provided me with encouragement. I would also dedicate it to my boyfriend who keeps me company in all my science talks and has joined me in my excitement, frustrations, and all the other emotions that come with research. And finally, to all women who have paved the way and to the young girls out there who think sciences rules, it absolutely does, so keep pursuing it!